A Thread Of Messy



There’s a phrase I’ve adopted, one I say almost every time someone comes over for a visit: “Welcome to my house. I didn’t clean for you. You are most welcome.”

Now, hear me out: I do own cleaning products. I do sweep and mop hardwood floors. I do scrub bristled brush to porcelain toilet walls, and I do regularly wash dishes and clothes and little boy bodies in an effort to maintain some semblance of clean.

But I do not freak out when friends and neighbors knock on our door.

I let Cheerios lie dormant in the corner, and I don’t worry about the thick layer of pureed string bean that’s decorated our swinging kitchen door since August of last year.

Some people, you included, might find this gross.

But I find it rather homey. In fact, I’m rather convinced that when we don’t sweep and mop and pretty our house for the people we most desire to welcome in, we make them feel like family.

And family is what I want others to feel like when they enter my home.

It hasn’t always been this way, of course. I haven’t always been this way. When I first got married, I somehow paired marriage with perfection. As much as I called myself a feminist, I couldn’t quite shake the Donna Reed image of a home and a woman and a spouse I felt I was supposed to be after officially sporting a ring on the fourth finger of my left hand.

So, I’d scrub and clean and bake and cook, stressing out as I sweated through the underarms of my fresh-pressed perfect hostess’ sweater. I’d slit eyes at my husband when he finally walked through the door, because what had he done to help me, what had he contributed for the betterment of our visitors?

When our friends—always our friends—did finally arrive, they’d ask what they could do. They’d offer to help. Seldom did I let them, though, because I didn’t feel that it was what I was supposed to do.

“No, no! Sit, here, have a glass of wine.”

“Oh, no, no, no. Do not even touch the sink full of dirty dishes—that’s for us to do after you leave, dear guest!”

But they didn’t want to be guests. They wanted to be family. They wanted to be welcomed in and given a role. They wanted to partake of the messiness. They wanted to see our dirt and know that we were real. They wanted to feel like they belonged, a belonging facilitated by the drive to do.

It wasn’t until I had a baby and was rendered unable to be Hostess With the Mostess that I began to embrace the mess of our house.

I think that’s when messiness also began to invade every area of my life, in the very best of ways.

Messy house gave way to messy clothes, and then somehow, when I wasn’t so put together on the outside, messy clothes gave way to real, honest, unfiltered conversations.

When a friend would come over, she’d find a space between unfolded piles of clean laundry on the living room couch and dirty spit-up rags from baby’s milk overdose earlier that morning.

We’d look at each other—her with breast milk stains covering every inch of her fleece jacket, me with two-day-old mascara caked under my eyes since I hadn’t taken a shower in who knows how long—and all that mess made way for a whole lot of honesty.

We began to get real.

We began to bare our souls, maybe for the first time.

And a sisterhood was knit together, a thread of messy as its central stitch.

I suppose it’s the best kind of messy one could ask for, because it’s a messy that’s raw and authentic, a messy that drives each woman to be the most true version of herself.

So, when you come over for a spot of tea or for a morning of conversation, know that my house is going to be a little bit messy. But also know that somehow, somewhere along the way, all this messiness is going to lead to solidarity between you and me.

And sister, you know I can’t wait for that moment to happen.

Cara Meredith
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from Seattle, Washington. Her first book, The Color of Life: A White Woman’s Journey of Legacy, Love and Racial Justice releases with Zondervan in January 2019. She loves a mean bowl of chips and guac, long walks outside, and makes it her goal to dance in the living room every night.
Cara Meredith
Cara Meredith

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